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Man tweets 'joke' that he hit cyclist, gets fired

Technically Incorrect: A UK stockbroker says that his tweet about hitting a cyclist with his car was merely a joke. Twitter users and his employers don't find it funny.

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What you say on Twitter can and will be used against you. AllTimeNumbers/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

There are several ways your sense of humor can get you in trouble.

One of those is when people don't find you funny.

This fate may, or may not, have befallen UK stockbroker Rayhan Qadar. On Monday morning, he offered this tweet to his more than 1,300 followers: "Think I just hit a cyclist. But Im late for work so had to drive off lol."

There is currently no evidence that he did hit a cyclist; although, the local police say they're investigating.

However, as the Bristol Evening Post reports, many on Twitter took him seriously. One Twitter user, Annabel Staff, even offered: "Dear oh dear, you ignorant pr*ck, hopefully you won't have a job to get to by the end of the day, enjoy going to court #Scum."

Perhaps she was more prescient than she realized. Qadar's employer, financial firm Hargreaves Lansdown, issued this statement: "One of our employees has failed to conduct themselves to the standards we expect of our staff. We find these online comments totally unacceptable. Upon becoming aware of this issue we have terminated this person's employment with immediate effect."

I have contacted Hargreaves Lansdown for more details.

Qadar's Twitter account is now private. However, I contacted him to ask about the circumstances of his firing and I will write an update, should I hear back from him.

He did tell the Evening Post: "I am 100 per cent sorry. It was a joke gone bad. I didn't think that would happen. I understand now that I can't say things like that."

He also reportedly issued two tweets of apology before locking up his account. The first read: "My previous tweet about the cyclist was obviously not true. I did not hit cyclist. Not today. Not ever. A bad joke on my part it seems."

The second added: "Sorry if anyone thought i actually hit a cyclist. Anyone who follows me on Twitter know (sic) 99% of the things I tweet is nonsense."

Everyone likes to flex their judicial muscles on social networks. Perhaps the seminal example of a joking tweet that went wrong was that of Paul Chambers.

Another Brit, he was frustrated that his local airport might be closed due to snow, thereby preventing him from visiting his girlfriend in Northern Ireland. He jokingly tweeted: "Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your s*** together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!"

He was arrested and charged with making a terroristic threat. After being found guilty, his conviction was finally quashed, but not before he lost his job.

Twitter is bathed in distasteful comments every day. And, of course, it's easy and right to condemn someone who laughs about running down a cyclist.

Some might wonder, though, whether being an idiot in public always makes you worthy of being fired.

A factor here, surely, is the public criticism Qadar received after his tweet. It was retweeted more than 150 times and the police were informed.

If he'd made his comments in a pub, rather than on Twitter, perhaps he'd only have received a slap on the wrist. Perhaps then he'd have been able to add, however inanely: "Just kidding." In Qadar's case, it seems that it took him several hours to explain that he was, in fact, joking. Which will leave some to wonder: Was he?

He told the Daily Mail that he's shocked. He said: "The way I'm looking at it is, if I kind of wrote a tweet about one person or a few people or targeted someone, like, specifically or anything, then I understand. But it was a made-up thing. It's not about anyone. It didn't hurt anyone. That's why I'm a bit, like, 'I can't believe it cost my job over that.'"

Qadar is 21.